By Max Clarke

90 trade unionists were killed for their work in promoting working rights last year and a further 75 received death threats.

These are the startling findings of the International Trades Union Confederation’s Annual Survey of Violations Against Trade Union Rights in the World 2010, detailing abuses of workers' rights in 143 countries across the globe.

In Colombia alone some 49 trade unionists lost their lives as a result of their unionist activities, while the Americas as a whole remain the most dangerous for trades unionists.

Commenting on the survey TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Around the globe, unscrupulous employers often work hand in hand with corrupt governments to deny people the right to join unions and to campaign for better wages and safer, fairer work.”

The survey - published at the 100th International Labour Organization (ILO) conference in Geneva this week - says that in addition to those killed, many more trade unionists were arrested, attacked, or subjected to harassment and intimidation.

The report reveals 75 recorded death threats against trade unionists, at least 2,500 arrests, and around 5,000 sackings of union members for promoting decent working rights and conditions. In Turkey alone, an estimated 350 unionists were dismissed solely for their union activities.
The global trends highlighted in the survey include governments not enforcing labour laws, a lack of support for the funding of health and safety at work, the lack of rights and abuse of migrant labour across the world, but particularly in the Gulf States, and the exploitation of mainly female workforces in the world's export processing zones.

The recent Arab uprisings have led to governments trying to repress their people engaged in trying to improve their lives economically through union representation, better wages and collective bargaining.

Barber continued: “Independent trade unions are essential to improving the living standards of ordinary workers across the globe. The ITUC annual survey shows that in fighting for basic rights to a decent job and decent life, many unionists put their lives on the line for the good of their communities.”